July 7, 2014

How Old is Too Old?

Age is such a funny thing. It's not really real you know. So much meaning and weight gets tacked on to how old we are. I'm not saying I'm against celebrating birthdays, or even having big blowout celebrations for milestone birthdays. Those things are worth celebrating.

But what does age really matter?

This weekend, I listened to a podcast called Pop Culture Happy Hour about being too old for youth culture and toys. It raised some interesting points about how we outgrow certain things from childhood and not others.

I guess it depends on what type of childhood you had, but mine was pretty great. There was no shortage of time for me to play, especially with my grandparents who always seemed happy to oblige me. I had lots of favorite toys. But more than just the toys themselves was the opportunity they gave me to imagine and dream up all sorts of things.

Transitioning to adulthood is a natural process of growing up. Toys are abandoned for other pursuits. But why does it feel like using our imagination should be outgrown too?

On the podcast, the hosts talked about some of the things they did as children, including re-enacting the mini-series Roots using Matchbox cars. Another described how she and her sister would rake leaves into a giant game board and act like superheroes.

These stories spark something so strongly in me because they remind of similar things I used to do...like my game of "Drive-Thru Window" in which I'd be inside the house near the bedroom window and my grandpa had to go outside and walk up to it. Each time, he'd be a different made-up character, placing outrageous imaginary food orders that I'd have to whip up. We played this for hours.

As I sit here typing this post, my desk holds a couple of small plastic Hello Kitty happy meal toys, as well as my childhood watercolor set and a plastic penguin figurine that when you remove the head reveals a stash of crayons (also a beloved childhood toy). It's not so much that I want to be surrounded by toys, but maybe I just like the whimsy they inspire.

As my southern beau likes to say about me, "you do require a certain amount of whimsy."

Yesterday we got to spend some time with a wonderful lady who happens to be 85. She's a dear family friend and the adventures (and tragedies) her life contains would fill several volumes. But what struck me most about her is her youthful spirit. She was widowed at age 43 (so young) and never remarried. Then she went to college at age 70 and graduated with a degree in art. She certainly doesn't seem to think that she's too old to do anything her heart desires.

In passing, she made a comment about yodeling and when my southern beau found out she yodeled, he asked her to do it for us. She then belted out "I Want to be a Cowboy's Sweetheart" complete with yodeling and harmony. It was amazing! And it just served as another reminder to me that who we are isn't really defined by how many years we've been alive.

[image via]